10 May 2010

On Horoscopes


Do you believe that being born in a certain place at a certain could determine your destiny for the rest of your life? Would you believe that your personality, your class, and your taste are all set from the day you were born? It is no surprise for astrologists to answer yes for the above questions. They assure us, with strong conviction, that it really matters whether we are born under the sign of Libra, Cancer, or Germini. While some may laugh these questions off as mere superstitions, astrologists have nevertheless succeeded in inducing many of us to harbour a sense of awe for the solar system, that planets and satellites are the decisive factors of what we do, that we ought to bow to necessities greater than ourselves.

In the technological civilisation of ours, our eyes should be full of wonder what science is capable of by a mere glimpse through the windows of electronics shops that offer countless choices of digital cameras, mp3 players, and mobile phones. Unfortunately, science has not triumphed. On the contrary, we derive consolation from a system devised in the second century A.D. which has not changed much ever since then, neglecting further astronomical discoveries and changes. Flipping over pages of women's and gossip magazines such as Cosmo Girl and FACE, particularly women's magazines, we may consult experts in astrology for a deeper sense of self-understanding and to know what may happen to us beforehand in months or weeks or even in days.

Perhaps there lies a seductive power for female readers in horoscopes. Women, conforming to their customary female curiosity for inner selves, unlike men who are only fond of physical appearance, tend to submit their thinking to the rigours of astrology rather than that of rational examination. In light of horoscopes, they are able to determine who can be their good friends or who may appease their romantic yearnings. On getting to know a stranger, rather than wasting time enquiring his background history, a simple question of his horoscope offers a woman well-grounded reasons to verify or dismiss his merits and qualities, based on an encyclopedia of astrology she bought in a commercial bookstore a couple of days ago. It is not uncommon to come across interviews of female celebrities in magazines and newspapers that they refer to the gospel of astrology when they wish to analyse a person whom they just meet.

But does astrology assert absolute truth as it suggests? If it sounds right to us, it is perhaps because of its lack of precision. It may predict on which day we may encounter good luck or what kind of personality we may unknowingly possess. But it fails to tell us at what time what sort of good luck may happen to us. Moreover, what is good to someone is not necessarily good to us. Why, then, should we endorse the authority of astrology and proclaim it a supplement to a scientific branch called astronomy?

The belief in astrology also evokes a sense of fatalism, that human beings are mere slaves of cosmic energy, that the existence of free will is an illusion invented by countless philosophers and Christians, that at moments of melancholy and frustration we could only be consoled by wearing specific colours of garments or specific flavours of perfume. It has risked inspiring in us the most dangerous form of tolerance. It has justified Social Darwinism that being poor should be seen as deserved rather than as an outcome of the ills of capitalism. It condemns all our struggles for a better future, while placing us in a passive position, it only tells us to wait for things to improve naturally.

At times of suffering, we may perhaps need to enlarge our capacity to endure suffering like the Stoics did in ancient Greece and Rome. But there is an alternative solution. Just like the British philosopher Robert Rowland Smith said, "To write your own horoscope for the week, and then do your best to make it come true."

W

3 comments:

  1. I like the last sentence. ^^

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  2. hmmm i think it more to do with our perception of astrology and what it should tell us than the actual science/art of astrology itself.

    i do not think it is worth dismissing a school of thought just because it was developed in 2 AD - for example, ayurvedic medicine and/or ancient philosophies of science/medicine (something that astrology would fall under) - yes we are more 'advanced' today - but why does that mean we should discount what we knew in the past? in fact, there seems to be this over riding school of thought that our discoveries of today are of greater achievement than what we knew in the past. Or that because we did not have 890938 gizmos back in the day, flying chariots (aeroplanes) or the interwebs, what we knew then must be false, or a result of superstition. While I agree that may be true for a lot of things, I think it is extremely naïve of us a s a society to think that we knew nothing back then because it cant be proven by our tools of today. But I mean, hello, fo course it cant. We don’t posess the right type of knowledge to be able to prove what we knew back then because we have no idea how we came up with those notions in the first place! Make sense?

    and yes, maybe women are more susceptible to the charms of 'inner discovery' - but lets face, 99% of the horoscopes/astrological advice out there is bullcrap. esp the ones in cosmo -mag and those readers and advice columns are simply evidence of the bastardization of the astrological science, also true of religion, and mostly everything else.

    and also, back to my point to start with - its rally about what we expect astrology to tell us - who said astrology was supposed to tell us what time or what will happen today - the real essence of astrology (as per my understanding) - is to do with the movements of the planets and how that affects your time and luck, at the end of the day though, it is still up to you to make it happen and write our own horoscope - analogy: if you dont fuck, you're not going to produce a baby no matter how fertile you are at that particular moment, ya digg?

    that doesnt mean that the planets and cosmic energy-ness of the world cant nudge you in a particular direction whether it is positive or negative

    and yes, at times of suffering, we humans tend to find comfort in things greater than us. astrology is one of those things. so is feng shui, karma, religion etc - but thats just human nature.

    and yes, i am a woman, and i am asian, (makes me more suspetible to the whole cosmic-energy school of thought) and although i do not consult my horoscope like a fiend, or believe anyone can tell me whether i am going to fall on my ass or not today, - i do believe, that the movement of the planets, can affect my being in one way or another. But then again, that’s just my opinion and boils down to a larger philosophy on life, spirituality and love. I think most men/logical brains/scientists would probably scoff at me, but then again, live and let live, is what I say :)

    whoa. I don’t think this is a comment anymore. This is more like a blog post…hmmmmmmmmm……..my apologies? But not really :) I still love you though, really. :) like I love the moon and the stars :)

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  3. Special K,

    This is a hell of a comment but I love long comments! I really appreciate your effort to take what I wrote seriously. Thank you.

    I didn't dismiss a school of thought just because it was written in the second century AD, just like I didn't dismiss Greek philosophy just because it was formulated before the common era. My worry is that it simply ignores new evidence. Most scientists agree that astrology is just what we may call "pseudoscience". I don't think that's an appropriate term though since I don't think there is such thing as "pseudoscience". Science is science. And that's it. Our past is definitely worth studying and that's why there is something called "history". And what we know today is built upon what we knew back then. For this, I am in complete agreement with you. My point was that we shouldn't neglect new evidence. I am not sure what you mean by "we can't prove what we knew back then" because science allows us to know the dinosaurs existed once on Earth. I don't regard what we knew in the past as merely superstitions, but we should remain fresh open to new evidence and make changes when the evidence is overwhelming.

    I also don't think astrology is science. It's just some kind of irrational belief. I agree with you on the fact that there is something about how we approach astrology though. There are just too many people who take it too literally.

    It is true that it's human nature that we are prone to find comfort in things like this, but that doesn't make it true and it seems foolish that human nature is not susceptible to change.

    I don't know whether cosmic energy and planets can make you act in a certain way, maybe they do, but definitely not strong enough to determine your fate. Environment does play a large role in this, but it's more about what surrounds us rather than those planets up there.

    I hope this clarifies what I really wanted to say. Never apologise for long comments. Thank you again.

    W

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